Doomsday Clock #12: A Beautifully Executed, Necessary Evil

Two years and some change after it began, Doomsday Clock—the 12-issue sequel to Watchmen from writer Geoff Johns, artist Gary Frank, and colorist Brad Anderson—concluded today with a few huge twists that will change the face of the DC Universe and leave fans talking for quite some time to come. What began as an ambitious and gorgeously-executed love letter to Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons' masterpiece ended as the latest in a line of "Crisis"-level stories aimed at cleaning up DC's continuity and setting up the next big thing. The finale—and the series as a whole—feels a bit scattered as a result.

On the one hand, it seems clear that Johns, Frank, and company had something to say about Watchmen—the characters, the world, and the legacy (both good and bad) that it has had in comics over the last 30+ years. On the other hand, what they had to say gets diluted somewhat by a final issue that descends to Flashpoint-style universe reconstruction in the back half of the issue.

On an unambiguously positive note: The art. Frank and Anderson kill it, and there has not been a page of Doomsday Clock that didn't look gorgeous. This project was absolutely worth the wait, and collected editions of the maxi-series will likely remain in print for at least a generation. This isn't The Kingdom, where the greatness of the original resulted in a fast and loose follow-up. Visually, it stands up to its predecessor and can be shelved beside it without shame.

Narratively, there is also a lot of good to say. Like Watchmen, it deftly juggles a number of storylines, and brings them all to a pretty satisfactory conclusion at the end of #12. That there's a ton of exposition in this issue is not surprising. First of all, that tends to be a Johns trademark in the final part of a big story. Second, like Watchmen, Doomsday Clock did its best to surprise the reader a bit with start-and-stop pacing that makes some twists harder to predict (since the foreshadowing came two or three or eight issues earlier).

Where Watchmen felt like the definitive end of a story, this does not—although there are certain beats that feel very final, and any potential follow-up will likely center more on the Johns-created characters who appeared first in Doomsday Clock and less on Moore and Gibbons' creations. That, ultimately, may have been a wiser strategy for this one as well but, like HBO's Watchmen, the lure of using Adrian Veidt and Doctor Manhattan proved irresistible for those involved.

Johns historically has trouble sticking the landing on big event stories, and this isn't that. With each of the various big swings he takes in the issue, he at least puts some wood on the ball. As with so much of the Doomsday Clock experiment, the issues tend to be less "is it well executed?" and more "was this a good idea to begin with?" Using Doctor Manhattan as a deus ex machina to make sweeping changes to the DC multiverse is an example: it may have been the best way to do it, not because he had the power but because crossing over with Watchmen inevitably made this series something that would "stick." The last couple of times that writers tried to re-establish the infinite multiverse done away with in Crisis on Infinite Earths, in The Kingdom and Convergence, the attempts failed largely because three months after the series ended, people forgot they had occurred.

All of that said, Johns still tries to cram a lot of information into this last issue—and some square pegs into some round holes along the way. The results are a mixed bag and, even at its best, it's hard not to be a little frustrated with a series that was billed as a high-minded Watchmen follow-up and instead became a sequel to Infinite Crisis.

Published by DC Comics

On December 17, 2019

Written by Geoff Johns

Art by Gary Frank

Colors by Brad Anderson

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Letters by Rob Leigh

Cover by Gary Frank and Brad Anderson